Just the very mention of snow on Tsurugi has put the wind up me! With 17 remaining to fit in before crampons become necessary, I drove through the evening rain to the new (south) fifth station on Fuji.
Was this the start of the trail? Where were the souvenir shops, horses and general kitsch that blights the Fuji-Yoshida (north) 5th station? In the dark, this side of the mountain seemed relatively unspoilt.
I had read of the damage that the lava rock of Fuji can cause to dogs’ paws. Glass-like shards shredding paw pads and even dog booties, a problem the owner eventually solved by fitting industrial rubber caps on a papillon’s feet. And a golden retriever owner, after reaching the summit to find the dog’s feet a bloody mess, was forced to carry his poor dog all the way down on his back.
So I took the Montbell dog rucksack and a roll of cloth tape, but I need not have bothered. She was just fine. After several hundred km of trail running last year and 83 mountains this year, Hana’s paw pads seem to be industrial strength.
It was the most perfect of nights. There was scarcely a breath of wind. Up above, the stars filled the sky except where the hulk of the mountain blotted them out. And below, city lights rolled out like a diamond-studded carpet down the Izu peninsula.
The mountain had officially closed for the winter yesterday, but there were still several dozen hikers, mostly students. At the top, I caught up with an Argentinian, a pilot based in Hong Kong who had come to Japan for 4 days to climb Fuji. With not a word of Japanese, here he was walking alone near midnight around the rim of Japan’s highest peak. When I explained why there were few hikers, he erupted in laughter: “What do you mean, the mountain’s closed?”